Why marry in the church?
Today, only 25 percent of those identifying as “Catholic” marry sacramentally in the Catholic Church. And within that segment, many don’t attend Mass, catechize their own children, or embrace spiritual order. Other adult Catholics who were raised in the faith, even married in the Church, concede to their kids skipping the sacrament of Holy Matrimony altogether in favor of indulgent alternatives. Education, comfort and opportunity have brought society a long way. But to where?
The reason for sheltering marriage under the protective wing of Christ has been largely forgotten. Today, the divorce rate among Catholics is indistinguishable from society at large.
Except in a little nondescript town near Croatia – where there are no marriage breakups. A priest recently relayed their story in a sermon.
“The Cross of Christ has a special place in that town,” he said. “When a Catholic couple there stands at the altar to be married, the priest tells them ‘you have found your cross.’” The couple brings a special crucifix to the ceremony, the priest blesses it, and they keep both their hands upon it. They promise to be faithful to God and the precepts of the Church. They conclude by kissing the cross – not each other. Bringing the same crucifix back to their home, they give it a place of honor from that day on, to remember to go before Jesus for help with any problem.
Catholics have historically approached the sacrament of Holy Matrimony in earnest, vowed to embrace God’s will for their life and its direction, accept children willingly, and persevere through good times and bad. They couldn’t know all that might lie ahead, but they committed and trusted in God’s fortification.
He had good reason to create the First Couple in complementarity – male and female – and to validate their purpose from the beginning. “… male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…’” (Gen 1: 27-28). At the wedding feast of Cana, the bride and groom invited Christ and His mother as honored witnesses – and were helped immediately – even miraculously – in their need before thinking to ask their esteemed Guest for it (John 2: 1-12).
This circles back to why marrying in the Church makes an interminable difference.
If man’s purpose is to align with God, bring others to Him, and live happily with Him in eternity, God will certainly assist spouses along their journey if He’s invited. Numerous studies over recent decades have shown that among the happiest and least-stressed of people are those who pray regularly and practice their Christian faith.
In Catholic faith-practice, Holy Matrimony is vital for a reason. Christ anticipates spouses’ need for His special grace and intervention – for themselves, and in raising their children. Through sacramental marriage, He blesses them. And when each remains faithful to Him, He channels what is needed, in good times and in bad, spiritually and temporally.
The Lord’s is the most important wedding invitation, and His gift is beyond compare.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Managing Editor.